Indie Corner: Kobo Writing Life Launch Overview


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Indie Corner

Kobo Writing Life Launch Overview


J.A. Marlow

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Copyright © 2012, J.A. Marlow, All Rights Reserved



Please note that the pictures are larger than the edge of the article. This is because they're easier to see than a smaller version would be. . . . The Editor 

Kobo has opened up its publishing portal to the masses, and there is a lot to be excited about. Kobo Writing Life sports an easy to use design with the best statistics and analytics available to the author and publisher that I have yet seen. I'm hopeful the other publishing portals will mimic Kobo on statistics aspect. Kobo has approached this from a good point of view:

"We fundamentally believe that for Kobo to do well, publishers have to be doing well and authors have to be doing well. We are part of a content ecosystem. Authors and publishers right now have massive decisions that they have to make. And most retailers treat this whole process like a black box: e-books go in, revenue comes out and the publisher and the author have no real insight into where, how, and to whom those sales are being made. The more insight we can give to a publisher and to an author about how this market is developing, how this consumer is different from a print consumer, the more likely they are to make good decisions, the better it’s likely to be for us." (Digital Bookworld Interview, July 16, 2012)

Kobo provides help for publishers and authors to their portal through their "Kobo Learning Centre" (Must be signed in to access). I suggest downloading both the FAQ and User Guide PDFs.

NOTE 1: This article includes screenshots, but I do not expect them to remain valid for very long. Kobo has stated they are on a 4-6 week upgrade cycle for the portal, so expect regular small and large upgrades.


NOTE 2: This article does not cover all aspects for Kobo's Writing Lift. Please see their website for more information.


Current Royalty Rates:

Kobo vendors will receive a 70% or 45% royalty rate on each eBook sold through Kobo Books, depending on the price of their eBook and the territory in which the eBook is sold. eBooks that are priced according to the following pricing rules are eligible to receive a 70% royalty rate:


Currency Pricing Rule


  • CAD -- Canadian dollar $1.99 -- 12.99 CAD
  • USD -- US dollar $1.99 -- 12.99 USD
  • GBP -- British Pound £1.99 -- 7.99 GBP
  • AUD -- Australian dollar $1.99 -- 11.99 AUD
  • EUR -- Euro €1.99 -- 12.99 EUR
  • HKD -- Hong Kong dollar $15.99 -- $99.99 HKD
  • NZD -- New Zealand dollar $1.99 -- $12.99 NZD


NOTE: They have since added the Japanese Yen to their currency listing, but the Kobo Writing Life User Guide has not been updated to reflect this change.


Payment Threshold

There is confusion on this issue, as the FAQ states "Electronic - the minimum threshold for this option is $25 USD" and "Cheque - the minimum threshold for this option is $100 USD." The User Guide states, "Payment will be issued on a monthly basis if your content has generated over $100.00 USD. If after 6 months, your content has not generated over $100.00 USD, we will deliver all of the earnings your content has generated at that point." As you can see, the User Guide does not differentiate between electronic and check payments.

However, in emailed statements from Kobo it appears the $100 threshold is the correct one. This is not a threshold many Indies are happy with, as Kobo still does not have the sales velocity for most of us to ensure a regular payment. For those for whom this will be an issue, I suggest remaining with Smashwords for Kobo distribution.

Uploading A New Ebook - Page 1


Pennames: Pennames are easy with the "Author(s)" field. Have a different penname? Just type it in.

Covers: Despite the advice given in the current edition of the "Kobo Writing Life User Guide," covers should be 300dpi (not 900). 2MB limit to the file (jpg or png). Change a cover by hovering a cursor over the old one and the option to upload a new cover will appear.


Categories: Kobo allows you to choose up to 3 categories for your book. This is a nice number, and helps tremendously for cross-genre works. The problem is the lack of categories. Some sub-genres, or even whole genres, are missing. Other genres are not where you would assume to find them (which concerns me on the reader side. How do browsing readers find what they want?).

Send an email to Kobo if you do not find the genres you need. Perhaps it will urge them expand the categories and sub-categories to make placing, and buying, your ebook easier.


ISBN: ISBNs are not required to publish with Kobo. Kobo has confirmed to me that not supplying an ISBN will prevent distribution to their retail publishers. However, the ebooks will still be distributed world-wide through Kobo itself.

CAUTION: If you use an ISBN, Kobo will attempt to use it to import Goodreads reviews. This can be a good or a bad thing, depending on your point of view of Goodreads or your review circumstances on that site.

Book Description Formatting: Kobo gives the ability to use simple formatting through a WYSIWYG window. Bold, italics, underline, and lists are all possible.


When I first used Smashwords to get to Kobo, the formatting of the descriptions came out just fine. The first week the Kobo portal opened up, I was looking through all my books still distributed through Smashwords and noticed all the text jammed up into one lump of a paragraph. Not a big deal? Well, it can be, as presentation is so important with ebooks. Since using Kobo's formatting window the sales of my books have jumped to double a month of the Smashwords-distributed version.

Page 2


Upload Ebook: Supported file types: .epub, .doc, .docx, .mobi, .odt

I have heard of issues with .doc and .docx files converting properly, with lost indents and a page break inserted after every paragraph. So far, the most reliable upload format that I have heard and used is an .epub file.

While Kobo does not provide a webpage preview of the uploaded and converted ebook, they do allow you to download a copy of the converted file to check on your home computer. For the first few times you upload, I highly recommend you download this file and preview it.

One note I'm happy to report: In all the ebook and cover uploads, so far Kobo has not timed out once. As I constantly have issues at Smashwords and Barnes and Noble with this issue, this was a very nice surprise.

Page 3


Apply Digital Rights Management? - Choose yes or no. NOTE: If you choose 'no' and update an ebook, check this setting. There are reports of it resetting to "yes".

Geographic rights? - Choosing "no" will bring up a list of countries where you can choose exactly what territories you can legally publish your ebook.

Page 4


Pricing: "Your currency" will be whatever you chose when setting up your account and payment information. The default is for the pricing for all currencies to be based off the price you initially put in for your currency of choice.

Watch the auto-generated pricing. In my case, using the US Dollar, the prices for the other currencies came out to strange numbers, and the British currency didn't convert high enough to qualify for 70%. All the rest of the currencies were at 70% while the GDP was at 45%.

My suggestion at this point is not to use the automatic calculators. Use a website like OANDA to figure out the current currency exchange rate for all the Kobo listed currencies. Then round off to a visually good-looking price.


NOTE: Keep in mind that all VAT and other taxes come out of your portion of the royalty. Adjust your list price to accommodate for this.

Page 5


Publish Ebook: Kobo provides something I've not seen at any of the other publishing portals, and that is the ability to schedule publication. You can fill out all the information, and then give Kobo a date you want the ebook to go live. I can see how this would be a plus in certain situations and promotions.

At this point your book will go into a 'publishing' mode. It will usually appear from within a few hours or a day or so. On good days I've had books go live within the hour. However, Kobo is still growing and there are reports of books lingering in a 'publishing' mode for weeks. If this happens, do not create a new book. This only complicates matters. Instead, send a support request to Kobo so they can look into the issue to determine the cause.

Statistics and Reports:


The statistics displaying country popularity and best day sales velocity are nice to have. I hope Amazon takes a clue and starts providing more detailed information on the miscellaneous sales outside US and Canada on the main reporting tab (these will usually show up as a 35% royalty rate on a book usually given 70%).

The main dashboard provides both grand total sales and sale for the month. When I first started Kobo did not provide a downloadable monthly sales statement like the other vendors. Apparently, reports were in the last rollout, but it is not to be found on the dashboard (at least not yet). The report is emailed to you and I'm happy to report that the report is broken down by day of sale and the country in which the book sold. As a publisher, this is fantastic information to have.

General Note 1: Search and Ebook Formatting

The Kobo site is growing, both in ability and world-wide scope. However, they have a few serious issues they need to work on. One is the ability to sort by price. At once point the Kobo site possessed this ability, but for some reason they took it away.

The second is serious lapses in search capability. At this time, a reader cannot use quotes around an author or title to get exactly what they want. It's a simple boolean search ability that I'm surprised the Kobo site does not have. Because of this, it can be hard for a reader to find you, even when they know exactly what they want. You need to make it easy for them.

For someone who has already bought your ebook, I suggest placing direct HTML links in your ebook your other ebooks so the reader does not have to use the frustratingly primitive Kobo search. Let the links take them directly to your other books. This will mean creating a custom ebook formatted special for Kobo.

Another tip: Add Kobo links to the exact books, not your author name. The Kobo search will bring up everything with both the first and last name, not necessarily the exact name first. Again, this will reduce your reader's frustration level when finding your work.

General Note 2: Tags and Keywords

Notice I said nothing about tags or keywords? That's because the Kobo portal has no place/option for them when uploading. They don't show on the reader side of the site, either. For this reason, an author and publisher need to be certain the title, subtitle, and description/synopsis make clear the genre and other information a reader might need to find your book in a general book search.

General Note 3: Reviews

At this time, it appears all reviews either come from Goodreads or are Facebook comments. There is no mechanism for reviews outside these two choices. This could be an issue for those who don't have accounts, or have philosophical differences and/or issues with these two sites.

General Note 4: Easter Eggs


Well, of a sort. When using Writing life, if you are quick enough while the windows or pages are changing, you will sometimes see boxes pop up with funny sayings in them such as "Listening to the music of the spheres..."Most go by too fast to read, but I've had a few chuckles over them. I like the sense of humor.


It's nice to see another world-wide ebook retailer enter the fray. Kobo's first attempt is rough around the edges, but show promise. Each author and publisher should look over the information about the Kobo Writing Life portal to see whether it is right for them at this point in time. Hopefully, Kobo will continue to improve their service on both the front-end and back-end to allow easier use by both readers and the content producers.